*** Year Zero by Ian Buruma

I’m no history buff but I loved Year Zero: A History of 1945. In the vein of What Soldiers Do, reviewed here recently, but with a formidably more ambitious scope, the author, a Dutch citizen whose father spent the war doing forced labor for the Nazis, uses the end of the Second World War to explore how people celebrated the end of the war, rebuilt, settled scores, and set about to build a new world. Although the narrative is set strictly in 1945, it’s striking to see how the events of so long ago shape many international alliances and conflicts decades later — and how more recent wars will also have consequences way after the fighting stops. I also particularly appreciated the treatment of events in Asia, since many historians focus more on Europe.

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